This paper, published in the International Journal of Gender and Women’s Studies, examines the role of religious approaches in preventing sexual and gender based violence in Nigeria. It begins by clarifying certain key concepts concerning these religious approaches, as well as the forms of gender violence and sexual abuse studied. The methodology of the study […]
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In Nigeria, as with many other places in the world, the Church is growing at a phenomenal rate, consisting of numerous Christian denominations both old and new. This spread of religious institutions holds both positive and negative promise; on the one hand, multiple denominations provide new forms of leadership, as well as checks and balances to orthodox churches, while on the other, harmful doctrines and misinterpretation of scripture can hinder women’s emancipation. It is in this context that this paper explores the need, status, and relevance of feminist thinking and leadership in Christian theological education in Nigeria. Through literature review, the paper highlights the historical neglect of feminism and feminist values exhibited by the Church, and argues that such a position is unnecessary given the values shared by both Christian theology and feminism.
The paper begins by expanding upon the concepts of feminism, feminist leadership, and theology, before outlining some theological reasons for concern, including the spread of misogynistic interpretations of the Adam and Eve story contributing to negative gender attitudes. The relevance of feminist leadership is then discussed, with a mention given to the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians who target the gospel from African perspectives that are more inclined to view men and women equally. The author concludes that there is a great need for more feminist leaders and Christian theological schools in contemporary Nigerian society to shed more light on the issues affecting women. Christian values of justice, compassion, and honesty should be utilised to tackle negative gender norms and reshape public opinion about women, something that will require feminist values and leadership to be included through theological education, and into the Church…
Religion is one of the most important social institutions in Nigeria, with pervasive effects on various aspects of people’s lives, attitudes and behaviours due to its social function of upholding and legitimising social norms and values, including morality, and enabling many to cope with problems. Based on this premise, this paper stresses that religion is critical in tackling the fact that too many women and children still die due to complications relating to pregnancy, childbirth, or diseases, a fact that prohibits meaningful growth and progress in society. As the two dominant religions in the country, the paper examines Christian and Islamic writings and positions to see how religion can play a positive role in promoting reproductive health issues, including modern family planning, and reproductive health practices such as child spacing by using contraceptive pills or condoms, and/or traditional practices.
The first part of this paper provides an overview of the reproductive health situation in Nigeria, drawing from national statistics, followed by a brief look at the National Reproductive Health Policy and strategic framework. The second part of the paper then critically reviews each of the eight major components of reproductive health as contained in the National Policy and Strategic Framework, including concepts, services, and strategies and approaches relating to: safe motherhood; family planning; sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS; traditional practices, including female genital mutilation (FGM) and domestic violence; cancers of the reproductive system; infertility and sexual dysfunction; management of non-infectious diseases; and adolescent reproductive health. With each component, the authors outline current and historical Islamic and Christian positions on the topic, complete with relevant scripture, in simplified non-technical language. On some components, such as FGM, gender equity, domestic violence, and cancer screening, there is clear scope for agreement between religious thinking and the well-being of women and girls. However, other topics represent a significantly greater hurdle, with abortion, sexuality, and sex out of wedlock all roundly condemned to various degrees by Islam and Christianity.
The paper makes recommendations to religious scholars and institutions in Nigeria, set in the context of the duty to fulfil the Millennium Development Goals and promote family health, fight malnutrition, prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, and stamp out sexually transmitted diseases:
Religion should present a united vanguard in the crusade against HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, and harmful traditional practices, including through an inter-faith initiative to ensure the distribution of funds only to those institutions that are willing to speak openly and truthfully about such issues.
Religious leaders in Nigeria should mobilise inter-denominational teams to provide more informed and practical approaches to reproductive health education and prevention. The pulpit should serve as a powerful tool to advocate for all acceptable preventive methods, and for educating and empowering people on sexuality and reproductive health.
Religious institutions must utilise their significant resources to enhance communities capacity to combat HIV/AIDS and other possible reproductive health issues by running more hospitals, clinics, and schools.
HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns, and media coverage of reproductive health issues more generally, must include religious framing to be effective.
Local governments and NGOs should be empowered to provide an established network through which faith-based organisations (FBOs), such as the Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN) and Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN), can reach communities to provide information and services to the people. FBOs are an essential component for such networks to be…
Throughout the 20th century, terrorism was largely limited to regional and national boundaries, and predominantly based on revolutionary nationalism in the fight against colonial powers. However, since the attacks in the United States in 2001 by Al Qaeda, smaller terrorist groups have been emboldened to strike far and wide, and to use terroristic tactics in waging bloody and asymmetrical warfare in numerous countries. In Nigeria, 2001 was also the year which saw the emergence of the Boko Haram insurgency which targeted what they saw as the “evil” of western education, including the education of girls.
This paper, published in the Applied Research Journal, is primarily concerned with examining the consequences of Boko Haram terrorism on women, using a qualitative and explanatory framework which begins by defining the key concept – terrorism – as being asymmetric political conflict designed to induce terror and fear through violent victimisation and destruction of non-combatant targets. The origins and causes Boko Haram’s emergence are then discussed, including a brief history going back to the 1990’s, with causes including poverty, unemployment, and the influence of radical jihadists around the world.
Next the paper identifies and discusses the key consequences of Boko Haram terrorism on women in Nigeria, namely: the abduction of women and girls; the arbitrary arrest of women by government security agents; the use of women for labour to support Boko Haram activities; inflicting collective terror on women through kidnap, violence, rape, and forced marriages; denying women and girls education, and instead marrying young women off in their teens; and a livelihood crisis as women in northern Nigeria stop farming the land and go into hiding for fear of attack, and movement restrictions and emergency rule hamper economic activity.
The paper makes a number of recommendations aimed at both government and religious institutions and leaders.
The government should make youth education a priority, as this is the major tool to break the cycle of poverty in the northern region of Nigeria.
Government security agents should be properly trained and equipped to provide security in communities, and especially to vulnerable women and girls.
There should be round-the-clock security in schools to protect school girls from abduction, rape and forced marriage by the Boko Haram terrorist group.
Community policing should be strengthened to provide public safety, and communities should be involved by the security apparatus in the fight against Boko Haram.
Collaboration between the Nigeria government and the international communities, especially with Nigeria’s neighbouring countries (Chad, Cameroon and Niger), is required in the fight against Boko Haram.
Strong political will is needed by the Nigerian government to fight the corruption which has impeded the fight against Boko Haram.
Islamic clerics should propagate the message of peace and respect for women’s right in their communities, with sanctions against religious clerics that incite violence against women or any minority religious group.
The government should collaborate with international donor agencies to provide cash transfer grants to assist mothers in ensuring their children, especially girls, stay or return to school. …
In 2012, a study in Nigeria showed that 64.4% of married women and 50.4% of unmarried women expressed consent for wife beating, such is the prevalence and normalisation of domestic abuse in the country. So widespread is the practice of wife beating, and of parents using violence against children, that some experts regard the problem as assuming epidemic proportions, and there is rarely a day goes by without a case of homicide by domestic violence (DV) being featured in print and broadcast media. This journal article presents a literature review that examines the nexus between Nigeria’s three major ethnic group’s cultural, traditional, and religious beliefs and practices that can act to impede the understanding and willingness of people to combat DV.
The paper begins by outlining the Nigerian experience of DV, explaining that until the mid-1990’s very little was done to combat DV, including near non-coverage of DV in print and broadcast media. Much has changed since then however, with numerous international agreements and human rights conventions signed by successive Nigerian governments. Recently, Nigeria joined the League of Nations that have a federal law against DV with the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015 (VAPP) signed by President Goodluck Jonathan, which received an overwhelming commendation both nationally and internationally. However, the author notes that the VAPP Act will need to be more than a piece of paper; it needs translating into having real meaning for the lives of Nigerians.
The rest of the paper tackles various aspects and causes of DV in Nigeria, including: the growing use and reach of awareness campaigns in influencing the behaviour and attitudes of society and institutions, including the police and justice system; the positive and negative influence of tradition, culture, and religion on DV and gender-related values; inheritance rights; the culture of silence and shame that is socially enforced, and keeps women – and men – from speaking out on DV; and the cultural norms encouraging a sense of ownership of wives by men, reinforced by both genders, as well as traditions such as bride-price. As former Chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association, Ikeja chapter, barrister Dave Ajetomobi, states, “There are many laws against domestic violence, but they are not working because of the cultural belief that a man owns his wife. Even the police hold this belief”.
The author concludes that DV and domestic homicide is far too common in Nigeria, and that it is only when the worst possible outcome has manifested that people begin to recall and speak out about their knowledge of abuse. This culture of silence must be ended, with people encouraged to raise issues before it is too late. While the increase in DV instances is worrying, more troubling still is the fact that many Nigerians are struggling to even see DV as immoral, let alone a crime. This poses a serious barrier to effectively tackling the scourge off DV in Nigeria, and requires significant work to change attitudes not only by government and NGO’s, but also, crucially, from religious leaders and institutions that play such a vital role in the traditional and cultural beliefs of the Nigerian…
While the level of uptake of antenatal services in Nigeria is low everywhere, indicators suggest that levels in the Christian-dominated South are higher than in the Muslim-dominated North. This study, published in the journal BioMed Research International, evaluated the effect of religious influences on the utilisation of general and HIV-related maternal health services among women in rural and peri-urban North-Central Nigeria. The study targeted participants that were HIV-positive, pregnant, or of reproductive age in the Federal Capital Territory and Nasarawa, and collected data via focus group discussions. Themes explored were the utilisation of facility-based services, gender preferences with regard to healthcare provider, and the acceptance of the Mentor Mother scheme, consisting of trained, HIV-positive counsellors as a Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) service. Thematic and content approaches were then applied to manual data analysis.
Of the 68 women were recruited for the study, 72% were Christian and 28% Muslim. The research identified no significant religious influences among barriers to maternal service uptake expressed by participants. Limitations were mainly being a long distance from a clinic, and socio-economic dependence on male partners, rather than religious restrictions. All participants stated a preference for facility-based services, while neither Muslim nor Christian women had provider gender preferences; competence and positive attitude were considered more important. All the women found Mentor Mothers highly acceptable as a PMTCT service. Given the findings, it is suggested that nterventions aimed at increasing antenatal care and PMTCT uptake should therefore concentrate on: targeting male partner buy-in and support; healthcare provider training to improve attitudes; and Mentor Mother program strengthening and impact assessment….
The protection of populations and prevention of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, while primarily the responsibility of nation states, is a multi-layered and complex task requiring the contribution of a multitude of societal actors. Among them, religious leaders have a vital role to play, both in providing spiritual leadership, and utilising their influence within communities to amplify messages of peace, and limit incitement to violent extremism.
Following two days of consultations among religious leaders from different faiths across Africa, together with faith-based organisations, subject experts, the United Nations, and others, this plan of action was drafted to provide guidance to all stakeholders on how best to promote human rights, prevent and counter incitement, hostility and violence, confront extremist ideology, and prevent gender-based violence.
The bulk of the recommendations are made toward religious leaders, including the need to: ground beliefs in human rights principles, act as role models and messengers of peace, avoid being politically manipulated, establish and strengthen Councils of Peace and Solidarity at national or sub-regional level, and develop an inter-faith code of conduct for preaching. Religious leaders are also called upon to help eradicate incitement to discrimination, hostility, and violence, and respond to such situations to stop tensions from escalating.
Among the many recommendations are some concerning the promotion inter-faith activities within the media, who are urged to collaborate with religious leaders to help disseminate messages of inclusiveness and social cohesion, as well as for enhancing the education of religious leaders and actors. A section is also dedicated to the issue of gender-based violence, wherein religious leaders are urged to strongly condemn such violence, and take a re-integration approach toward victims to ensure they are not stigmatised. Finally, the plan makes recommendations for the government, among which is a call to treat all religions with equal…
Widows in Nigeria, particularly in rural areas, can often be subject to discrimination, retribution, and exploitation. In efforts to overcome the impact of this harmful cultural practice, humanitarian aid organisations and development initiatives have begun to focus on the empowerment of rural widows. However, despite the provision of services by humanitarian organisations to mitigate the widows’ sufferings, there remains a proportional population of widows living in abject poverty and suffering from discriminations and deprivations in Nigeria. This comprehensive study examines the consequences of widows’ usage of the services of faith-based organisations and secular aid organisations to empower themselves in rural communities in Abia state Nigeria. It seeks to explore the ways the widows’ demonstrate their agency while receiving the support of the aid organisations, and emphasise the implication of prioritising their voice, perspectives and aspirations in the empowerment process.
The study adopted relational autonomy, capability, and cultural and institutional approaches as a framework to analyse the various levels (micro, meso and macro) that rural widows in Nigeria could be empowered. To explore these various levels, the study focused on: the widows’ perceptions of their vulnerabilities in their rural communities, and how their vulnerability translates to choices they make to transform their lives; the extent to which the aid organisations made attempts to address the needs of the widows in their service delivery; and ways the widows empowered themselves in the rural communities, especially when the services of the aid organisations were not available. The study used the constructivist ethnography and comparative approach, relying mainly on observations and semi-structured interviews carried out over a period of 7 months by four aid organisations (two faith-based, and two secular) in 12 communities in Abia state Nigeria, where the aid organisations operate. The sample population was the widow beneficiaries, and the staff of the aid organisations.
The research revealed that although the aid organisations were the major providers of services to the widows, the widows also empowered themselves through their individual and collective capacities, and by utilising support from indigenous groups and social networks to enhance their well-being in their communities. This despite the fact that widowhood stigmatisation and discriminatory practices infringed these women’s right to self-esteem, respect and dignity. The study also shows the importance of including all levels at which women can operate as agents in any assessment of rural widows’ empowerment. The outcome from the different levels of analysis showed that the grassroots support groups were relevant in the widows’ empowerment in the rural communities, particularly in their provision of immediate support in addressing the widows’ exertion of their agency. The study goes on to suggest that a better empowerment practice for improving the lives of rural widows in Nigeria would frame widows as beneficiaries, rather then organisational objectives, and identify their aspirations, specific needs, and the social actors who are relevant in their empowerment.
The study closes by offering some policy recommendations for advancing the empowerment of widows in rural areas in Nigeria, including that:
Aid organisations should play advocacy roles in lobbying for change in customs infringing women’s rights to their husbands’ property when they are widowed, and address cultural norms inhibiting their access to other resources.
Aid organisations should pay more attention to providing information about and access to credit facilities; the study showed that most of the widows believed that access to micro-finance banks is a plausible strategy for empowerment.
The study found that foreign donor guidelines worked to limit the autonomy of widows, and effected the flexibility of aid organisations. It is recommended to donors that this power imbalance be addressed by allowing aid organisations to decide how and where funds will be spent.
To avoid institutional damage via reliance on aid, it is recommended that donors work with aid organisations to build their capacity, and become self-reliant.
Collaboration with indigenous groups and communities is vital to enhancing the capacity of aid organisations, requiring investment in the development of networks and data gathering…
Developed on the basis of a rapid assessment process which involved literature reviews, fieldwork, and interviews, this report details V4C’s planned strategy in a programme aimed at working with religious and traditional leaders in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment (GEWE). The report begins by providing some background, noting the systematic disadvantage and discrimination Nigerian girls face, particularly those who are poor, live rurally, or are from particular social groups. It then goes on to discuss the influence of religious and traditional institutions and leaders in creating, maintaining, and potentially fighting the systematic nature of gender inequality. On this last point, it is noted that engaging men who are opinion leaders, and working with the whole community rather than just with girls and women, has led to successful and progressive change across Nigeria.
Before presenting the strategy, the report outlines V4C’s aims, values, and guiding principles, including a number of pre-identified ‘success factors’ included commentary and chosen measures and indicators. V4C’s current work with religious and traditional leaders and institutions has two key strands: targeting attitudinal and behaviour change amongst religious and traditional institutions and leaders, and working with religious and traditional institutions and leaders to bring about attitudinal, behaviour and policy change in the wider enabling environment, with a focus on V4C’s three key focus areas: violence against women and girls (VAWG), women’s leadership, and women’s decision-making. This strategy is informed by five guiding principles: taking a long-term view; working at multiple levels, e.g. individual, institutional, community, etc.; working with others, both in terms of networking with other Nigerian civil society organisations, and identifying and supporting champions among religious and traditional leaders; ensuring ownership and promoting collaboration; and maintaining a focus on learning, particularly concerning identifying those strategies that actually work.
Regarding opportunities identified by V4C’s rapid assessment, there is considerable appetite amongst religious and traditional leaders to be involved in programming on gender issues. Additionally, it shows how most religious communities have high-level leadership or coordinating organisations which operate at the state and/or national level, and which provide guidance and support to leadership cadres at local levels. V4C can work with these structures to multiply the impact of training and sensitisation activities. Another avenue for collaboration is working with student associations in a range of religious and traditional structures, while the extensive networks of religious leaders, often including TV, radio, and print media outlets, make them ideal partners to disseminate messages.
The rapid assessment also identified a number of challenges. Firstly, while religious and traditional leaders can and should make great allies, it must be recognised that these same systems and actors often play a significant role in perpetuating patriarchy and gender inequality. A key issue emerging from the rapid assessment was that women work actively in the service of religion and religious organisations, and are often considered influential actors in the community. However, they are mostly excluded from religious hierarchies and decision-making structures and processes. Religious and traditional leaders who choose to engage with gender equality programming can also face community backlash, or even threats to their personal security, with a particular danger that they may be characterised as promoting a ‘Western agenda’ aiming to undermine the religious and cultural values of Nigeria. It is important to support champions discreetly, and ensure that all those engaging understand the risks involved first.
The report discusses the identification of a number of possible partners, and their expected results from the programme, before concluding with the preferred approaches. Having assessed the literature and working environment, it was concluded that V4C’s work to address GEWE with religious and traditional institutions and leaders will stand upon four pillars, all of which are discussed in detail:
Transforming the attitudes and behaviours of religious and traditional leaders through training, sensitisation and knowledge-sharing.
Securing commitment from high-level religious and traditional leaders and coordinating organisations to promote GEWE issues.
Supporting religious and traditional institutions and leaders to promote public awareness, discussion and debate on GEWE issues.
Engaging religious and traditional institutions and leaders in advocacy and policy change…
Purdah is a highly controversial subject, and includes many different interpretations and definitions from scholars and experts around the world. Purdah falls into two inter-woven categories. On one side is the requirement for women to cover their bodies and conceal their form. The other side is physical segregation, involving the isolation of the sexes e.g. at prayer, in associating in public, and even through the use of screened off areas within homes where other men are not allowed. This paper looks at the concept and perception of purdah and its practice in a typical Islamic setting of Northern Nigeria. The paper makes a holistic appraisal of existing literature, both academic and religious, to bring to bare the implication of meanings and interpretations of purdah based on cultural and religious practices, and to show how its practice has impacted on the women in the region.
The paper finds that purdah impacts on women in the region is a number of ways. Women are commonly denied inheritance rights, and do not have access to land and other means of production. Purdah also impacts women’s economic empowerment; as banks in Nigeria insist on getting collateral in advance of any business loan, women cannot access bank loans to start businesses. Even many of the intervention programmes introduced by the government and aimed at the empowerment of the less privileged members of the society have not impacted positively on women’s lives. The author concludes that purdah has secluded and excluded women from the social, economic and political activities in society, thereby confirming their second class status. The institution of purdah can therefore be seen to be inimical to the progress and development of the women in Northern Nigeria. Furthermore, the exploitative tendencies of purdah has put the women in such a precarious position that they lack the wherewithal to demand for, let alone get, equal rights with men….